Energize Employees With Vibrant Surroundings

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Stale and drab or vibrant and buzzing? How to lift the working vibe:
Go wild. Parklike describes the office at DuneCraft, seller of educational science and nature products. "My inspiration was to make our work environment be like a botanical garden," said CEO Grant Cleveland.
Plants and koi fish-stocked ponds, rather than fabric-covered partitions, surround the company's workers. "They bring in their friends and family to show it off," Cleveland told IBD.

Get closer. The problem with the traditional corporate cubicle?
"When you box people off too much, they get lonely," Cleveland said. He also did not want the chaos that results from eliminating partitions altogether. DuneCraft's flora separates workers gently.
"This is a nice intermediate," he said. "You want it to be open, but not too open."

Brighten up. Lack of natural light is another challenge in DuneCraft's area of Ohio, which enjoys around 60 sunny days a year.
Walking into a sunny office, brightened with grow lights for the plants, helps workers beat seasonal doldrums. "(Last) winter was our longest ever, and I didn't have any of those feelings," Cleveland said. "It puts people in a better mood."

Breathe easy. The aesthetically pleasing plants also serve a practical purpose.
"They clean the air and add humidity to the air," Cleveland said. "There's more oxygen in the air, so (employees) are more awake."

Spend wisely. A jungle makeover doesn't have to be more expensive than a traditional approach.
"The cost of all the ponds is probably less than 15 partitions," Cleveland said.
To stay within budget, he took recommendations from his architects and contractors. "You have to have constraints to make innovation make sense," he said.

Squeeze it in. Nothing energizes like the buzz of activity, which is why workplace experts advise brisk walks and exercise breaks during business hours.
But how to fit them in? Lee Hillman, CEO of Performance Health Systems, sees a business application for his company's Power Plate workout machine. Touted by gym rats Clint Eastwood and Evan Longoria, third baseman on the Tampa Bay Rays, the fitness device uses vibration technology to create short, intense workouts.
"It's fun. It's like a treat in the afternoon to go use it," Hillman said.

Shake it up. The Power Plate's platform vibrates 25 to 50 times a second, triggering muscles to contract rapidly. "The body is sensing in its simplest form a bit of a crisis, and adapts itself to help you perform," Hillman said.

A three-minute stint of various stretching moves on the Power Plate can increase blood circulation, release good hormones like serotonin and testosterone, and suppress the stress hormone cortisol.
"The vibration technology was used by the Soviets to train the cosmonauts," said Hillman. "That's why they could stay in space longer at that time."

Keep track. Imagine an ear bud that detects when you need a stress-relieving break or reminds you to up your blood oxygen level with a few deep breaths.
Valencell President Steven LeBoeuf sees such applications for his firm's biometric technology. "The biggest market that has been adopting it is the fitness market," he said.
In addition, the military uses Valencell's technology to monitor and train soldiers, and the gaming industry uses it to feed players' physiological data into their platforms.
"We are the biometric power behind what they do," LeBoeuf said.